Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Belgian delicacy (part II)

Hello all

Sorry for the long absence. Not that many people have noticed. Blogging is a very fickle way of life -you need to keep up a constant presence or else people will drift away and your name is quickly forgotten.

Some analogies there with my actual life. Since being forced out of my former Institute by an act of arson, I have been largely unnoticed by society, and the steady flow of requests by the media for stories about parasites have all dried up. I'm thinking I might have to drop the 'celebrity parasitologist' moniker, and replace it with something like 'McCrumble down and out in rural Suffolk'.

My marketing manager, the occasionally intelligent Dr Mark Booth, called me the other day and demanded to know when I was going to get back on my feet. 'My feet have turned to mud', I lamented - not a metaphor, in fact, but something close to the truth as I was standing in a very soggy patch of soil when he called my mobile.
'Come on Joseph. I know you well enough by know. You can't resist the lure of science. Sooner or later you'll want to get things going again, find a lab, start some experiments. We need you to get going Joseph. The scientific community needs you.'

I understood what he meant, of course. Parasitology is a discipline from which it is impossible to escape by means of simply burning down your laboratory. Even now, with my life at perhaps its lowest ebb for many years - even now I can't but help think that one day I'll be dissecting rats once more, making new discoveries about the parasitic worms that lurk within. It is this single shred of optimism that keeps me going.

In other news...

The thorny problem of my Belgian delicacy was finally resolved this week. It turned out to be a misunderstanding of epic proportions. The belgian delicacy in question was not, as everyone suspected, a person with whom I had an adulterous liason, but a chocolate cake with a personalised message, inscribed by one of Belgium's finest cake decorators, for my wife. I had been drunk when I made the order, and had asked Clara to use 'Belgian delicacy' as a code against Dolores knowing what I had ordered. It was my own way of trying to show her how much I care.

The cake arrived a few days after I finally plucked up the courage to phone Clara and find out what had happened. This time there was no ambiguity, and the misunderstanding was rapidly resolved. I gave her my address, and she said that she would have the cake sent by courier. It was her uncle who would decorate the cake with the message that I had specified. Five days later and the package arrived, addressed to myself. I was busy painting the coffee table that Ravel had made from an old pine door when Dolores delivered the package. My wife was not smiling, and spoke with a flat voice. 'It says here, on the package that it is from someone called Clara. Clara lives in Belgium, according to the address on the back. Coincidence?'

'No darling!' I exclaimed cheerfully, thankful that the issue was about to be resolved. 'It's something for you!'

'What are you on about? Are you taking the piss Joseph? I've just about had enough of this. '

'No really, darling. It's a surprise. Please just open it. You'll see.'

'It's not addressed to me. You open it', hissed my wife, throwing the box at me. I was holding a can of paint at the time and caught the box awkwardly. It slipped from my grasp and fell onto the door, which was lying horizontally between two wooden crates. In a reflex-driven attempt to to stop the parcel from bouncing off the door I dropped the can of gloss paint and leant over the door. The paint can landed on the floor and discorged its contents over my feet, and I missed the parcel. It bounced off the other side of the door and landed in a deep puddle. Dolores, seeing my anguish at the possibility of losing the parcel, made the immediate, and not unwarranted, conclusion that the contents were somehow valuable to me. Her reaction was nonetheless somewhat extreme. Instead of striding off in protest, she walked round to the other side of the table and deliberately stamped on the parcel. She was wearing wellingtons at the time, and the large surface area of her footprint made a substantial indent in the parcel itself - I estimated that she managed to compact the box by approximately 50%.

Satisfied that she had destroyed the contents, she walked away. I was shocked by her behaviour, but determined that this misunderstanding should go no further. 'Stop there!' I shouted, my voice full of emotion. 'It's just a cake Dolores! Please believe me. It was meant to be a surprise. It's for you. Please come back!'

My outburst managed to stop Dolores in her tracks. She turned round and paused for a moment as if thinking how to respond. When she did finally speak, it broke my heart. 'Screw your cake Joseph. Screw you, screw this place. You want to keep up this charade then do it alone. I've had enough.'#

'But it was all a misunderstanding..', I shouted. 'Please - just look inside the parcel. It was for you. It was a cake, for you. The whole thing was about a cake. The Belgian delicacy was a cake all along. Clara was the person who arranged the cake. It was just a misunderstanding Dolores. Please check the box.'

My wife did not check the parcel as requested. Instead she took several deep breaths before taking a few steps closer. What she said next broke my heart for the second time in as many minutes. 'OK, Joseph. So it was a misunderstanding. If you say there is a cake for me in the box then I believe you, and I'm sorry I stamped on it. But...just how many more misunderstandings do we need? How many times are you going to put me through the emotional grinder then tell me it was all a misunderstanding? Am I supposed to forgive and forget every time, just pretend it doesn't matter?'

'What do you mean...?'

Dolores was more than ready to tell me what she meant. For the next fifteen minutes she talked non-stop about what it all meant. By the end of her monologue I was left in no doubt that our marriage was not the rock-solid edifice I always imagined. Somewhere along the line, and I'm not sure where that happened, I had started to take my wife for granted. At the end of her outpouring she made that quite clear, before finally telling me that she needed some time alone. I had no option at that point to agree to move out of the barn for some unspecified period. That afternoon I packed my bags and moved into a spare room in the manor house. This was made possible only by the fact that Dolores works there as a cleaner two days a week, and told the housekeeper that I was going to do some gardening. We agreed that I would not pester her during her working hours, and that we will talk again in a few days.

I am now sitting in my small room, contemplating where I have gone wrong.

The message on the cake, by the way, said 'To Dolores, my everlasting love. For you, I will do anything.'



Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Well that will teach you for ordering your confectionery from Belgium, which is in the throes of a possible divorce itself. A parasitology conference in Ghent? A likely story!

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

Daphne - please do not judge me harshly. The conference was entirely bona fide - see....

Prof. Plum said...

JMC I've heard of everlasting gob stoppers but not everlasting love. What a waste of a chocolate cake.......was it cheese cake perhaps.
Still livin at the big manor ouse can't be bad ehh.

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

Plum - If only you knew the depth of my love for my wife. I just can't convince her of that sometimes. It may sound grand living in a manor house, but the reality is very different. My room is barely big enough to swing a rat, never mind a cat.

Prof. Plum said...

Just as long as that's all your swinging JMC..........